UNL receives federal grant to host international scholars

UNL receives federal grant to host international scholars

Elizabeth Theiss-Morse greets a group of students from Africa before lecturing on "Why National Identity Matters in American Politics" during the 2014 Study of the United States Institute on Civic Engagement. At right is Patrice McMahon, academic director of the SUSI Institute and associate professor of political science. UNL has received a federal grant to host the program again in 2015.
Craig Chandler | University Communications
Elizabeth Theiss-Morse greets a group of students from Africa before lecturing on "Why National Identity Matters in American Politics" during the 2014 Study of the United States Institute on Civic Engagement. At right is Patrice McMahon, academic director of the SUSI Institute and associate professor of political science. UNL has received a federal grant to host the program again in 2015.

For the second year, a grant from the U.S. State Department will allow a group of African students to study at UNL.

In January and February, 20 students from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and South Africa will spend four weeks in Lincoln participating in the U.S. State Department’s Study of the United States Institute on Civic Engagement. The program allows the students to take classes on United States history, government, democracy and community service, while also interacting with community leaders and state lawmakers.

In the final week of the institute, the students will travel to Alabama to tour important Civil Rights Movement sites and complete community service projects.

The institute will build on the 2014 program, offering a stronger focus on community service and social issues.

“UNL is a great place to host international students and to have program on democracy and civic engagement,” said Patrice McMahon, associate professor of political science and academic director of the institute. “UNL students were remarkably generous with their time and the community really embraced the group that was here last year.”

The grant is for $230,413 and UNL will contribute $60,781 for the program.

Hosting the institute is both beneficial for the students attending as well as UNL students, McMahon said. As part of the program, institute scholars are paired with peer mentors who serve guides. This creates opportunities for each participating student, including those from UNL, to have one-on-one intercultural interactions.

Margo Berends, a UNL alumna who served as a peer mentor, said her participation as a peer mentor in the 2014 institute was a unique opportunity.

“Cultural exchanges are extremely important and we all have a lot to learn from one another and should be open to as many of these types of opportunities as possible,” Berends said.

The program is being overseen by McMahon; Linda Major, assistant to the vice chancellor for student affairs; and Damien Pfister, assistant professor of communication studies. Many UNL faculty are also helping with the program by giving lectures, providing mentoring and assisting with events. Twenty UNL students will again be peer mentors for the program.

The institutes are designed and funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. More than 50,000 people participate annually in U.S. Department of State exchange programs.

For more information about the institute at UNL and other exchange programs, go to http://exchanges.state.gov.